Livingston Season Preview: Courageous Lions aim to beat the drop once more
Keaghan Jacobs congratulated by teammates after netting an equaliser at Fir Park in October. (Image from Getty Images/Ian MacNicol)

After two incredible seasons, culminating in double promotions, Livingston found themselves in the Scottish Premiership last year, and they were made clear favourites to be relegated before a ball was kicked.

The Lions turned out to be the surprise package in their first top-flight season in 12 years, surviving comfortably as they took points from every team in the division, and turned the Tony Macaroni Arena into a fortress.   

Victories over Rangers, Hearts and Hibernian, along with two draws against champions Celtic were highlights of last year's campaign and helped Gary Holt's side amass 44 points, which for a newly-promoted club is a fantastic achievement. This season could see Livi struggle more than they did last year though, as they are no longer an unknown quantity.

Transfer Business Overview

Livingston have had a very active transfer window this summer, and there could still be more activity to come.

Skipper Craig Halkett was snapped up by Hearts on a pre-contract earlier in the year, while Declan Gallagher agreed to terms with Motherwell for the upcoming season. Both defenders, who played a vital role in Livi's League One victory and Championship promotion, will be sorely missed next season.

Liam Kelly also left West Lothian this summer for pastures new, after Queens Park Rangers met his reported £50,000 release clause. The goalkeeper joins up with former boss Mark Warburton at the London club.

Shaun Byrne left the Lions for Championship side Dundee. The midfielder was another key player in Livi's rise through the divisions. Ryan Hardie could also be a big miss for the club this season. The joint-top goalscorer's loan deal expired, and he now finds himself at English League One side Blackpool following a move from Rangers.

That meant a lot of business needed to be done by Livingston in the summer window after the core of their squad was ripped apart. They acted quickly by bringing in midfield enforcer Marvin Bartley from Hibs, who will bring vital experience to the side.

Nicky Devlin has also joined the club after he turned down a contract to stay at Walsall. The full-back has had a terrific Betfred Cup campaign and looks like a real coup for the Lions.

Livingston also have Robbie Crawford and Lyndon Dykes on the books now. Both will be looking to make the step-up from the Championship having done well in pre-season.

Kelly's replacement looks to be Matija Sarkic, who has joined on loan from Aston Villa to push Ross Stewart for the number one jersey. Sarkic is a bit of an unknown quantity, along with three more new additions - Cece Pepe, Ibrahima Savane and Aymen Souda.

The West Lothian club have dipped into the European market for the aforementioned three, which could be seen as a huge gamble. Pepe joins from Italian Serie C side Rieti, Savane from French Ligue 2 side Beziers, and Souda signs after a spell in the Romanian top-flight with Dunarea Calarasi.

Overall, it's been a busy window for Livingston. Some key players leaving may have a huge impact on their season, but the new arrivals will be looking to write their own history.

There is still business expected to be done at the Tony Macaroni Arena, with Dolly Menga reportedly on the way to Angolan side Petro de Luanda on loan. Holt has stated he would like one or two more players through the door.

Early Season Form

Livi have progressed through their Betfred Cup group with no major issues, even managing to finish as a seeded group winner, which has set up a winnable last 16 tie at Forfar Athletic.

The Lions topped Group G on 11 points, after victories against Stranraer, Berwick Rangers and Ayr United. They were held once as Falkirk nicked a draw on the opening day, but Holt's side claimed the all-important bonus point via a penalty shoot-out win.

The Premiership outfit scored ten goals in four games, albeit against lower league opposition, but have looked threatening going forward. The league will be a completely different story, but Livingston can take confidence going into Saturday's opener where they host Motherwell.

Player to Watch - Scott Pittman

After Livi's phenomenal season last term, the plaudits deservedly went to the likes of Halkett and Kelly, but someone who perhaps goes under the radar a little bit too much is tenacious midfielder Scott Pittman.

The 27-year-old joined the club in early 2015 after playing junior football at local sides Broxburn Athletic and Boness United, and since then has developed into a Premiership-class player - arguably one of the Lions' best ever signings. But, Pittman doesn't grab the headlines due to his hard-working midfield role, even though he's been instrumental in Livingston's success over the last few seasons.

Over the years, he's mainly played as a box to box midfielder, but the number eight has chipped in with his fair share of goals over the years, and important ones at that. His first ever goal for the club was the opener in Livi's 4-0 Challenge Cup Final win over Alloa Athletic, and he also netted the winners in both first leg Play-Off matches against Dundee United and Partick Thistle respectively.

Pittman has been deployed in a more advanced role throughout the Betfred Cup, as a 'number ten' just off the striker, so could start to add even more goals to his game this season and finally get the plaudits he deserves.

One for the Future - Scott Tiffoney

Livingston signed Scott Tiffoney from Morton last summer, but the forward was loaned back to the Greenock club until midway through last season. He impressed in the Championship, scoring three goals in 11 appearances, so got his crack in the Premiership when he returned.

Tiffoney, who turns 21 in August, caught the eye as he played in various roles towards the end of the season. It's still not clear whether Gary Holt will play the youngster out wide, behind the striker, or as a partner to Lyndon Dykes, but the Morton academy graduate certainly impressed when he was given minutes.

Despite a disappointing end to last year's campaign, Tiffoney gave Livi fans something to smile about on the final day at Fir Park when he came on as a substitute and netted a brace inside just 28 minutes. The 20-year-old is quick and direct and could be an exciting player for Livingston in years to come if he takes his chance this season.

Predicted Finish: 10th 

Livingston should be aiming to just stay clear of any relegation worries like they did last season, but it could prove a much tougher task given the loss of fan favourites Craig Halkett, Liam Kelly and Declan Gallagher, who, along with Alan Lithgow, kept 14 Premiership clean sheets last season.

There may be some talk on improving on last season and aiming to push for a higher finish, but realistically it would be another fantastic year for the Lions if they were to just avoid the relegation places and stay in the Premiership for another season.

Similarly to last year, 10th would again be a superb achievement for Gary Holt and his side, who will most likely find themselves in a battle with St Mirren and Hamilton Accies down at the foot of the table. Anything more would be a welcome bonus at the Tony Macaroni Arena.

VAVEL Logo